Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

March 19, 2020
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Getting Past Form: on the Value of Literary Ideas

What follows is a guest post by Patrick Fessenbecker. In a recent column in The New York Times, Ross Douthat contends that English professors aren’t having the right kind of arguments. Reflecting on the analysis of the decline of the humanities in a series of essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education over the last year, Douthat makes a familiar diagnosis: the problem is that we literature professors no longer believe in the real value of the objects we study. Engaging Simon During’s account of the decline of the humanities as a “second secularization” in particular, Douthat argues that secular attempts to defend the humanities will fail just as surely as secular attempts to defend religious ethics and norms did: it doesn’t work unless you really believe in the thing. Correspondingly, the debates literary scholars are having about how to expand the range of texts and subjects we teach are … Continue reading

March 2, 2020
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Sor Juana’s Rough Heroines: Cognitive Immoralism in Primero Sueño

What follows is a guest post by Adriana Clavel-Vázquez and Sergio A. Gallegos. Against all odds, Novohispanic nun Juana Inés de la Cruz gained widespread recognition as a writer in her lifetime. Today, she is also recognized as a distinguished Early Modern philosopher who advanced one of the earliest defenses of the right of women to be educated, and who emphasized how human knowledge is constituted by doubts and struggles. She was particularly preoccupied with the lack of recognition of women as intellectual peers, and its consequences for how women are treated.

February 13, 2020
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What is Art? Let Cognitive Science Help You Answer That Question

What follows is a guest post by Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, and Joshua Knobe. They offer an overview and summary of the ideas in their new paper, “Dual Character Art Concepts,” just out in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. (Non-paywalled version available here.) Alfie: This sculpture is not art. I know many people think it is art, but when you think about what art really is, you will realize that it is not art at all. Betty: Of course this is art. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art! Alfie: I know. But all the same, it’s not a true work of art. It’s impersonal factory-produced rubbish. Betty: Wait, I agree that this sculpture is completely awful in every way, but still, it’s obviously a piece of art.

November 25, 2019
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Spin Me Round: Why Vinyl is Better Than Digital

What follows is a guest post by Tony Chackal. We have also published a response piece to this post, which you can read here. Ever wonder why people prefer vinyl records over digital formats? Are they just snobs who fetishize vintage culture or elitists overly concerned with being hip? Are vinyl enthusiasts backward-looking in resisting contemporary technology? Maybe. But there are other substantial reasons to prefer vinyl to digital formats that may account for recent rebounds in vinyl sales. In this piece, I’ll highlight what I think they are.

August 29, 2019
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Reading Projects: Historical Schemes as Literary Artifacts

What follows is a guest post by David Alff. Last year I finished writing a book about projects. Not art projects or housing projects or chemistry projects, but the idea of projects itself. I wanted to learn how humans came to organize their lives and worlds through discrete endeavor. I wanted to understand how enterprise became such a widespread vehicle for ambition that we seldom notice its existence. What are projects anyway? Why are we always doing them? How else could we spend our time? These questions drove me to see the project as a distinct form with a traceable past rather than as a daunting abstraction or the container of something more salient. Studying projects on their own terms, I thought, would give me fresh vantage on the history of ideas. My book set out to reveal nothing less than the basic unit by which anything has ever been … Continue reading

July 31, 2019
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Zombie Formalism: Or, How Financial Values Pervade the Arts

What follows is a guest post by Sarah Hegenbart. Once upon a time, the month of June was jet-set season for the international artworld. After a meet and greet at the preview days at the Venice Biennale, which used to take place in early June, the crowd of artists, curators, critics, dealers, and collectors jumped on a plane, a train, or a yacht heading towards Basel, Switzerland. Basel wakes up at least once a year when astronomical amounts of money are paid for works so contemporary that the paint on the canvases has hardly finished drying. Or possibly even works that are such hot shit that they are not available yet because they are still on view in one of the national pavilions at the Venice Biennale. But the unavailability only increases the desire. (This is a pattern recognizable from other unhealthy relationships, too.) Knowing the economic laws of supply … Continue reading

February 14, 2019
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Owning What Isn’t: Copyright and Conceptual Art

What follows is a guest post from Darren Hudson Hick (Texas Tech University). A few weeks back, as my aesthetics undergrads were taking their final exam, I was sitting in the back of the room, reading Susan M. Bielstein’s 2006 book, Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property. It’s a book about the history, legality, and pragmatics of art permissions, and it’s a page-turner. Seriously: it’s easily one of the best books about copyright that I’ve read in years (and, by God, that’s saying a lot). Bielstein is the executive editor for art, architecture, classical studies and film at the University of Chicago Press, so she knows what she’s talking about, and she’s an enviably good writer. Accompanying each image in the book is a note about how much Bielstein paid to use the image, and to whom. On page 58 is a reproduction of Robert … Continue reading